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D-Lib Magazine
March 2005

Volume 11 Number 3

ISSN 1082-9873

The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program

New Projects from Fiscal Year 2004


Lee L. Zia1
Division of Undergraduate Education
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA 22230

Red Line


In fall 2004, the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) program2 made new grants in three tracks: Pathways, Services, and Targeted Research. Together with projects started in fiscal years (FY) 2000-03 these new grants continue the development of a national digital library of high quality educational resources to support learning at all levels in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). By enabling broad access to reliable and authoritative learning and teaching materials and associated services in a digital environment, the National Science Digital Library expects to promote continual improvements in the quality of formal STEM education, and also to serve as a resource for informal and lifelong learning. Proposals for the FY05 funding cycle are due April 11, 2005, and the full solicitation is available at <>.

The NSDL program has its roots in various planning meetings and workshops (see [1-6]) and more recent reports and white papers (see [7-10]) continue to inform its evolution. Issues of interest include international dimensions and implications, as well as the identification of future research challenges. Brief descriptions of projects from the first four years of the program appear in [11-14], with full abstracts available through the NSDL program site (under Related URLs see the link to Abstracts of Recent Awards Made Through This Program). Two NSF directorates, the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) have both provided significant co-funding for over twenty projects in the first four years of the program, illustrating the NSDL program's facilitation of the integration of research and education, an important strategic objective of the NSF.

In FY2004, the NSDL program introduced a new Pathways track, replacing the earlier Collections track. The Services track strongly encouraged two particular types of projects: (1) selection services and (2) usage development workshops.

  • Pathways projects provide stewardship for educational content and services needed by a broad community of learners;
  • Selection services projects identify and increase the high-quality STEM educational content known to NSDL; and
  • Usage development workshops engage new communities of learners in the use of NSDL and its resources.

These three elements reflect a refinement of NSDL's initial emphasis on collecting educational resources, materials, and other digital learning objects, towards enabling learners to "connect" or otherwise find pathways to resources appropriate to their needs. Projects are also developing both the capacities of individual users and the capacity of larger communities of learners to use and contribute to NSDL.

For the FY2004 funding cycle, one hundred forty-four proposals sought approximately $126.5 million in total funding. Twenty-four new awards were made with a cumulative budget of approximately $10.2 million. These include four in the Pathways track, twelve in the Services track, and eight in the Targeted Research track. As in the earlier years of the program, sister directorates to the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) are providing significant co-funding of projects. Participating directorates for FY2004 are GEO and MPS. Within EHR, the Advanced Technological Education program and the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research are also co-funding projects. Complete information on the technical and organizational progress of NSDL including links to current Standing Committees and community workspaces may be found at <>. All workspaces are open to the public, and interested organizations and individuals are encouraged to learn more about NSDL and join in its development.

Following is a list of the new FY04 awards displaying the official NSF award number, the project title, the grantee institution, and the name of the Principal Investigator (PI). A condensed description of the project is also included. Full abstracts are available from the NSDL program site (under Related URLs see the link to NSDL program site (under Related URLs see the link to Abstracts of Recent Awards Made Through This Program.) The projects are displayed by track and are listed by award number. In addition, seven of these projects have explicit relevance to applications to pre-K to 12 education (indicated with a * below). Four others have clear potential for application to the pre-K to 12 arena (indicated with a ** below).

Pathways track

DUE-0434813*. Teachers' Domain Pathways to Science: Rich-Media Sources for K-12 Teachers. Institution: WGBH Educational Foundation (PI: Theodore Sicker). The WGBH Educational Foundation is expanding its TEACHERS' DOMAIN initiative to include an integrated set of digital pathways to promote, guide, and support the effective use of rich-media science resources by K-12 teachers, both in the classroom and for professional development in three core subject areas in the K-12 science curriculum (Life, Physical, and Earth Sciences). The digital pathways include contextualizing information such as background essays, lesson plans, and correlations to national and state-level standards, with dissemination, outreach, and support via professional development courses online workshops, classroom videos, and CD-ROM demonstrations, to assure widespread distribution and informed use in schools. Additional activities underway include the exploration of a partnership with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and its 349 independent member stations. The Office of Multidisciplinary Activities in the NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and the Division of Earth Sciences in the NSF Directorate for Geosciences are providing significant co-funding of this project in recognition of the value of this work in advancing the larger educational goals of MPS and GEO.

DUE-0435187**. The Computational Science Education Reference Desk. Institution: Shodor Education Foundation Inc. (PI: Robert Panoff). A national partnership, involving research and teaching institutions, a minority serving institution, community-based organizations, and high performance computing centers at the state and national level, is providing stewardship for high-quality, effective computational science educational materials. Primary activities include evaluating, modifying, collecting, tagging, and (where rights can be obtained) archiving the best of the growing body of computational model based materials that are available on the Web. The initial audiences are undergraduate faculty and their students, both future scientists and engineers and future teachers. The project also expects to have a direct impact on in-service teachers and their students in intermediate and secondary schools, as well as life-long learners.

DUE-0435198**. The Math Gateway. Institution: Mathematical Association of America (PI: Lawrence Moore). In this project the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) is assuming stewardship for significant mathematical content and services of particular importance to accessing and using educational resources for the mathematical sciences. In guiding users of mathematics to the rich array of digital library collections and services now on the Web and encouraging the development of new materials and services, this project is advancing two central goals of NSDL.

DUE-0435310. AMSER: Applied Math and Science Education Repository. Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison (PI: Rachael Bower). This project is helping to meet the STEM educational needs of community and technical colleges, and forging a link between this large community of institutions and the NSDL. Project partners include the Internet Scout Project, MERLOT, the American Association of Community Colleges, the City College of San Francisco, projects of NSF's Advanced Technological Education program, the Tennessee Board of Regents, the Virginia Community College System, and others. AMSER consists of an applied mathematics and science educational resource collection, a customized portal to aid community college students and educators in locating and accessing those resources, and a mixture of technology-based and hands-on training designed specifically to enhance the learning experiences of community college students and the teaching capabilities of instructors at these institutions.

Services track

DUE-0434253 and DUE-0434278. Collaborative Project: Nuclear Pathways - A Model for Composite Digital Collections. Institutions: Washington and Lee University (PI: Frank Settle) and Kennesaw State University (PI: Laurence Peterson). This collaborative project is implementing and communicating methods for assisting educational content providers in combining resources from their respective websites into coherent, composite collections. The test case, Nuclear Pathways, brings together an initial group of three collections serving a broad community of educators and learners interested in nuclear issues, with a planned expansion to ten additional collections. The Office of Multidisciplinary Activities in the NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) is providing significant co-funding of this project in recognition of the value of this work in advancing the larger educational goals of MPS.

DUE-0435016. The Science Knowledge and Education Network Building a User Base around Scientific Publications: Editing Online Content and Annotating Scientific Materials. Institution: Cornell University - State (PI: Steven Kelling). This project is developing an open-source infrastructure for building dynamic collaborative communities centered around primary scientific references. By expanding traditional, content-based scientific information into a community-based information exchange and providing a mechanism for blending science knowledge with opportunities for formal and informal science education, the project seeks to transform primary scientific references into "living" publications that include the most current information on their topics and allow continuous annotations of the content through community input from both researchers and members of the public.

DUE-0435327 and DUE-0435422. Collaborative Project: Assessing the User-base and Expanding the Usability/Reach of the Analytical Sciences Digital Library through Developmental Workshops. Institutions: University of Kansas Center for Research Inc. (PI: Cynthia Larive) and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (PI: Alexander Scheeline). In this collaborative project, experts in analytical science, library science, and intelligent Internet search are enhancing the usability, value, scope of content, user base, and organizational self-sufficiency of the Analytical Sciences Digital Library (ASDL). National and regional user workshops will promote effective applications of electronic resources in lecture and lab courses and expand the user community. The Office of Multidisciplinary Activities in the NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) is providing significant co-funding of this project in recognition of the value of this work in advancing the larger educational goals of MPS.

DUE-0434581. IntegraL (Integrating Libraries): Expanding the NSDL's Reach to Traditional Libraries through Resource Integration. Institution: New Jersey Institute of Technology (PI: Michael Bieber). This project is enhancing the display of traditional library services by automatically adding customized sets of context-sensitive links to related NSDL resources and appropriate services. Conversely, links to digital library screens may be added as well, leading NSDL users to related collections and appropriate services both within digital library systems and (with authentication) traditional library resources at their local libraries, as well as to publicly accessible special collections. The initial implementation is testing direct NSDL access to many thousand users through the largest public library in New Jersey, on-line accessibility to all New Jersey public library users, and four college and university libraries.

DUE-0434960. Annals of Research on Engineering Education (AREE). Institution: National Academy of Sciences (PI: Norman Fortenberry). The National Academy of Engineering, in partnership with several engineering journals (including the Journal on Engineering Education, Computer Science Education, and the Journal of Research on Science Teaching) is hosting a web portal to education research papers in engineering (including computer science) and related science (including mathematics) disciplines. Project goals include presentation of rigorous research on engineering education; a forum for researchers on engineering education to discuss applicable standards for the evaluation of engineering education research; and a reference site offering annotated bibliographies of the most recent research on engineering education research.

DUE-0434998. General Recommendation Engine (GRE) for NSDL. Institution: New Jersey Institute of Technology (PI: Il Im). This project is developing a general recommendation engine (GRE) that any NSDL system can use to provide recommendation services to its users. GRE selects the relevant materials for users: students doing assignments, teachers preparing for classes, or researchers trying to understand a new topic area. GRE integrates the three most dominant recommendation technologies - collaborative filtering (CF), content-based filtering (CB), and knowledge-based recommendation (KB).

DUE-0435058. Online Psychology Laboratory. Institution: American Psychological Association (PI: Maureen McCarthy). Using experiments and materials from an existing web-based laboratory and a collection of donated experiments and hard-to-produce stimulus materials (e.g., sound files, graphics, and movies), this project is assembling: highly interactive, web-deliverable psychology experiments and demonstrations; a cumulative data archive from which students can retrieve datasets for analysis; and user-controlled data extraction and analysis tools designed for the diverse needs of end users. The project is led by the American Psychological Association (APA) and also involves faculty at the University of Mississippi and Northern Iowa University.

DUE-0435217*. PRISMS- Phenomena and Representations for the Instruction of Science in Middle Schools. Institution: Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (PI: Page Keeley). The Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA) and the AAAS Project 2061 are working with middle school teachers to analyze two key aspects of Web-based science, mathematics, and technology resources that are connected to science benchmarks: their alignment to middle grades content standards and the quality of their instructional support for teachers. The service also includes teacher-prepared annotations detailing classroom experiences with using the resource, suggested modifications to make the item more effective, and questions that can guide its instructional use. Both the Office of Multidisciplinary Activities in the NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) and the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) are providing significant co-funding of this project in recognition of the value of this work in advancing the larger educational goals of MPS and EPSCoR.

DUE-0434922** and DUE-0435084**. Collaborative Project: Personal Collections: Enhancing the Utility of the NSDL. Institutions: New Media Studio (PI: Martin Landsfeld) and Eduworks Corporation (PI: Robert Robson). This project is providing the equivalent of a personal digital library, allowing patrons to store digital library holdings together with the associated identifying metadata. The service enables users to classify resources using personal taxonomies or organizational schemes, add annotations (such as the suggested citation), share collections with colleagues in collaborative learning and research settings, and search colleagues' personal collections using metadata. Users can also create "packages" of resources and learning objects for use by learning content authoring tools and learning management systems. The design is based on Internet services architecture and makes maximal use of existing open source technologies.

Targeted Research track

DUE-0434624*. CoMPASS-DL: Design and use of a concept map interface for helping middle school students navigate digital libraries. Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison (PI: Sadhana Puntambekar). Prior research in the design and cognition of hypertext systems points to the use of graphical aids to help navigation and learning; and educational psychology research shows the value of concept maps to support learning of rich relationships between science phenomena and principles. Navigable concept maps help students to select resources based on the relatedness of the documents to each other as well as to students' learning goals. Pilot testing of CoMPASS-DL in middle schools is enabling the larger NSDL community members who are designing resources for K-12 students to better understand how digital resources can be integrated in inquiry-based science classes.

DUE-0435059 and DUE-0435496. Collaborative Project: Superimposed Tools for Active Arrangement and Elaboration of Educational Resources. Institutions: Villanova University (PI: Lillian Cassel) and Oregon Health and Science University (PI: Lois Delcambre). This project is evaluating the use of "superimposed tools" in undergraduate and graduate computer science classes, including both traditional, textbook-based classes as well as research-oriented, paper-based classes. These tools enable users to select passages in a variety of base document types, place and label them on a scratchpad tool, and arrange them into user-defined groupings and provide annotation. The investigators are also developing digital library services that allow superimposed artifacts to be deposited, indexed, searched, and used along with original library resources.

DUE-0435339*. Computer-Assisted Content Standard Assignment & Alignment. Institution: Syracuse University (PI: Anne Diekema). This project is improving the ability of teachers to locate science and math resources that support standards-based instruction, no matter what state they are in or where a resource was developed. A computer-assisted standard assignment recommender tool suggests to a human cataloger relevant national content standards appropriate for a learning resource. The cataloger accepts, edits, or rejects these suggestions and the tool adds them to the resource's metadata records. A second tool creates a crosswalk between math and science state standards and their national counterparts. The resulting mapping is then incorporated into the search capabilities of NSDL so that teachers can search for resources using either their home state standards or the national standards.

DUE-0435398. Faculty Participation in the NSDL - Lowering the Barriers. Institution: University of Wisconsin-Madison (PI: Alan Wolf). This project is exploring the use of digital libraries by higher education faculty, examining factors that encourage use of and contribution to these collections. Focus groups with faculty from the complete range of higher education institutions, with broad representation across the STEM disciplines, are providing data for a broad survey of faculty to capture the needs of users and the concerns of non-users. In addition, the survey is being prepared as a toolkit to allow other projects (including those targeting continuing education and K-12) to modify and use the survey to collect data on their target audiences and better serve them.

DUE-0435464*. Creating Interactive Educational Activity Templates for Digital Libraries. Institution: McLean Media (PI: Lois McLean). This project is investigating the design, feasibility, and applications of a Flash-based template system, linked to digital libraries, to enable teachers to easily assemble, assign, and customize online learning activities. Primarily focusing on life science content appropriate to Grades 3-5, the project is developing three computer-based interactive environments that reflect children's developmental growth. The prototype is also working with other NSDL projects to investigate the integration of a Flash-based template system into the broader NSDL effort.

DUE-0435098* and DUE-0434892*. Collaborative Research: DLConnect: Connecting Underserved Teachers and Students with NSDL Learning Resources and Tools. Institutions: Eastern Michigan University (PI: Ellen Hoffman) and Utah State University (PI: Mimi Recker). Workshops are being developed for middle grade teachers and library media specialists to help them integrate NSDL materials into the middle school classroom. The importance of helping this group is evident from the numerous studies conducted over several decades pointing to the middle school as the place that large numbers of students begin to lose interest and ability in science and mathematics. The project is having a direct impact on 250 middle schools and a large number of middle school teachers within the service areas of the two universities.


1. All views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent an official NSF policy statement.

2. NSDL funding program, <>.


1. "Information Technology: Its Impact on Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology." (NSF 98-82), April 18-20, 1996. Available <>.

2. "Developing a Digital National Library for Undergraduate Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education." NRC workshop, August 7-8, 1997. Available <>.

3. "Report of the SMETE Library Workshop." (NSF 99-112), July 21-23, 1998. Available <>.

4. "Serving the Needs of Pre-College Science and Mathematics Education: Impact of a Digital National Library on Teacher Education and Practice." NRC workshop, September 24-25, 1998. Available <>.

5. "Digital Libraries and Education Working Meeting." January 4-6, 1999. Available <>.

6. "Portal to the Future: A Digital Library for Earth System Education." August 8-11, 1999. Available <>.

7. Reports from the DELOS-NSF Working Groups on Digital Libraries from meetings in 2002 and 2003. Available <>.

8. "Preserving Our Digital Heritage: A Plan for the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program." Library of Congress, October 2002. Available <>.

9. "Wave of the Future." Briefing papers from an NSF workshop. June 15-17, 2003. Available <>.

10. "It's About Time: Research Challenges in Digital Archiving and Long-term Preservation." A joint NSF - Library of Congress workshop. August 2003. Available <>.

11. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: A Progress Report." D-Lib Magazine, October 2000. Available <doi:10.1045/october2000-zia>.

12. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: New Projects and a Progress Report." D-Lib Magazine, November 2001. Available <doi:10.1045/november2001-zia>.

13. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: New Projects in Fiscal Year 2002." D-Lib Magazine, November 2002. Available <doi:10.1045/november2002-zia>.

14. Zia, Lee L. "The NSF National Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Digital Library (NSDL) Program: New Projects in Fiscal Year 2003." D-Lib Magazine, March 2004. Available <doi:10.1045/march2004-zia>.



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